Last year I read a book written by Christopher Booker called the Seven Basic Plots. As the name implies, the book revolves around the seven plots which all storytelling is based upon. It is really a quite interesting read. Even if you don’t agree with everything he says (he seems particularly negative about modern storytelling for instance), it will still get you thinking about how stories are structured and how they work.
Regardless of the type of story though, he describes five stages that every story goes through (though shorter stories may focus on one particular stage):
- 1. Anticipation Stage
- 2. Dream Stage
- 3. Frustration Stage
- 4. Nightmare Stage
- 5. Resolution Stage
I believe that this structure has a lot in common with the three act structure, as illustrated below. In reality, the fit may not be as perfect as I depicted it, but it’s close enough.